Changes and the Individual

Language Arts and Science Activity

Students evaluate the social effects of inventions and other developments on the lives of ordinary individuals.


Reference materials for historical periods


  1. Ask students to think back to the time before the telephone was invented (1876). Have them suggest how people communicated before then. Then have them imagine themselves living at the time the first phones were installed. How did it change the way people did things? How were they personally affected?

  2. Let students choose a historical period in which there were many social and technological changes. Students can choose from among several periods, or you may prefer to choose a single period and have students immerse themselves in it. Periods in which ongoing changes had broad social implications include the following:

  3. After they research the period, they are to create a profile of an individual who might have lived at that time and whose life would have been affected by those changes. For example, they might choose a factory girl at the time of the Industrial Revolution; a farmer during the Agricultural Revolution; or a newspaper reporter in the Age of Steam.

  4. Students can present their profiles as either nonfiction or fiction. For example, they might write a profile in the form of a feature piece for a newspaper: A Day in the Life of a Factory Girl. Or they might write it as fiction, such as a first-person story in which the character introduces him- or herself and describes a typical day. Other possibilities are journal entries and letters.


Students can also follow their interests by researching developments in particular areas, such as these:

Students might write a script to show events in their character's life, then act it out before the class.

If several students elect the same period to research, bring them together to role-play their characters in a social or work situation. They could also form a panel to discuss their different lifestyles and issues arising from those differences.

Encourage students to read historical novels to see how authors write fiction against an accurate historical background. Have students make a library search for books that present historic periods through the eyes of young people, then create a reading list others can refer to.

Activity Search | Reading Center | Math Center | Social Studies Center
Education Place | Site Index

You may download, print and make copies of this page for use in your classroom, provided that you include the copyright notice shown below on all such copies.

Copyright © 1998 Houghton Mifflin Company. All Rights Reserved.